Recyled Stardust, by Joy Collins

Images3 My mom is 81 years old. Yesterday, in our 9 degree (yes, I mean NINE degree!) weather, she went downhill skiing at the local resort, where she continues to ski the most difficult “black diamond” trails. Maybe not as aggressively as in the past, but she’s still tough to beat to the bottom. Part of her identity is that of a skier.  Me, on the other hand, on the 9 degree day, had out-patient surgery on my “bum knee” which turned out to have a meniscus tear (probably from my own years of skiing and running.) What a contrast between Mom and me!

The good news is my surgery went smoothly and I should be off crutches in a week. The bad news is they had to remove a significant chunk of the meniscus, and as the young doctor kindly put it, “You might want to consider cross training with a sport other than running.” Immediately I began wondering what this meant. Run only 3 times a week? Twice? Once? Not at all? What, not engage in my favorite physical and spiritual pastime for the last 37 years? I’m really going to have to think about all of this.

Which brings me back to Mom. When is it the courageous, life giving path to push back on aging and get out there in the 9 degree weather? On the other hand, when is it the gracious spiritual path to say good-bye to an anchoring and life connecting sport that has sustained me through moves, job anxieties, divorce, coming out, re-marriage, deaths of loved ones….the list goes on. How can I feel connected in the universe without this beloved spiritual practice?

I’m getting some comfort from one of the readings in our recent Wellspring session on Humanism. In a speech, Rev. David Bumbaugh, Professor of Theology at Meadville Lombard, reminds me that, hard as I try, I am NOT separate from the universe, and that whether I jog or not, I am a manifestation of it:

“The history of the universe is our history; we are all of us recycled stardust…In a curious way, we carry with us in our bodies the very environment in which we evolved. The heat of our bodies is the heat of stars, tempered to the uses of life. The salt in our blood and in our tears is the salt of ancient oceans, encapsulated and carried with us, generation upon generation, into strange and distant places and circumstances. The past is not dead. It lives in us even now… It is a religious story in that it whispers of a larger meaning to our existence…If, as the Humanist Manifesto suggests, we are not separate from nature and we are a result of nature’s inherent processes, then our struggles with meaning and purpose, our endless search for insight and understanding can not be limited in their significance or consequence to the human enterprise alone, but must be part of the emergence of the universe itself.”

For a non-theistic agnostic such as myself, Bumbaugh offers me an honest, yet satisfying way to see the truth that I don’t need my daily run to feel connected. I am better than connected, I AM the universe!

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